Don't ask, Don't tell - for Senior Citizens
Age is what you make it.
How old is old?
Surprisingly, American Social Security equates people aged 55 or older as "aged". That may have been back in the days when the average life expectancy was somewhere around 65 or so. Today, the calculator for Social Security says that a man reaching the age of 65 can expect to live another 20 years. A woman can expect to live another 22 years after reaching age 65.
Today's Seniors are living longer and better lives. Modern medicine has helped the 'elderly' to continue to live long past retirement age with more mobility and quality. Therefore, in any social situation, there are new rules for conversations with citizens who have "grown up".
Socially unacceptable questions or conversations for people over 50:
If you can read this hub, you should know by now that one would never ask a plump or obese woman if they are pregnant. How rude! Now, let's learn some socially crude things to ask or say to anyone over 50 years of age.
- "You look good for your age!" - Good grief, what constitutes looking BAD - for your age? Why not stick to simply saying, "You look nice". Age really has nothing to do with looking good or bad.
- "Why don't you act your age?" - A lot of children ask this of their parents. Even parents ask this of their children. As no one has definitively determined exactly what constitutes 'acting your age' truly means, it's ok to act 'young' or act 'old' if that is how you feel. The numbers on the calendar have very little to do with your personality.
- "You look tired, are you feeling well?" - This question is appropriate, perhaps, if you want the whole life history of someone. It's just one of those questions that people ask without truly wanting to know the answer. That makes it kind of socially awkward to ask in the first place. An older person might decide to take offense, or they might decide to sit you down for an hour and explain every ache and pain.
- Calling someone by their first name without permission - A lot of people do this. They think it is perfectly all right to call a senior citizen casually by their first name, even if they have just met. If the person is close to your own age, it might work, but be polite and ask if it's OK to call them by a given name or nickname. Show some respect.
- "You shouldn't wear makeup, clothes, shoes or perfume made for younger people." - What should they wear? Who are you, the fashion police? Why would you say these things? If you are footing the bill for the person's clothing, etcetera, then you get to choose, but you can't make someone wear (or not wear) something they are not comfortable wearing.
- "You're getting grey hair, thinning hair or a balding scalp." - What's it to you? We know we're not hair models and we're not trying to be. Genetic codes determine hair condition. We have no control over it. If you want to suggest a product, then give it as a gift or something. Don't just blurt out negative comments.
- "Are these your grandchildren?" - Maybe, maybe not. Lot's of people opt to have babies at a later age. I'm sure ask David Letterman if his nine year old son is his grandchild. If you are not sure, don't assume that young children are the offspring of offspring. Old people may have perfectly functioning reproductive systems.
- "You are too old/overqualified for this job." - Seriously? If they didn't want or need a job, they wouldn't bother to apply to your low class company. Retired people need to supplement their income from time to time. Why don't you accept the fact that they find your company worthy of their talent?
- "Do you need help with the internet or your computer?" - Well, hello, you just assume that old people do not know how to keep up with technology? If an elderly person wants help, they ask for it. Sometimes learning new things will exercise their brains. Ok, this one isn't so bad. But remember, it's not just old people that don't understand new stuff. Everyone has to learn things.
- "How about getting some plastic surgery for those saggy skin areas?" - This is just another way of saying, "you look old". Why don't you get some lessons in manners? Take your older friends out for a spa day, you need it too.
- "You look just like my mom/dad!" - Oh, gee thanks. I've always wanted someone to tell me that. I suppose it would be worse if you said, "You look just like my grandma/grandpa!"
- (at a retail establishment) "Did you want me to calculate your senior discount?" - Hell yea! I always want my senior discount, you don't need to ask. If you think I look like I qualify, go ahead and give it to me. Just don't say it out loud in front of my friends.
Chief Old Person!
What age group is reading this hub?
Please indicate which age group you are in:
Conversing with the elderly...
Treat everyone with respect and kindness! It doesn't matter if the person is young or old. They are human beings first. Slotting people into groups is just another way to judge people.
The old and elderly have many things to offer. They have accrued some experience on their journey. Don't brush off a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. Learn from everyone you meet.
Simple manners are all you need in any social situation. That's it! That's the secret.
The best words to sprinkle generously throughout any conversation are:
- thank you
- excuse me
Opening doors for people is still considered courteous, no matter what the age.
The golden rule is the best rule of thumb in any situation - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
If you want people to be nice to you, then be nice to them.
Are Your Parents Getting On in Years?
© 2013 Lela